Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
As the Chinese saying goes, “he who stays near vermilion gets stained red; he who stays near ink gets stained black.” If one were to take that literally, I would practically be a rainbow. It is widely held that the environment that one grows up in plays an integral role in shaping a person. However, for me, the situation is quite different. For the first twelve years of my life, remembering my home address was troublesome business; I lacked a permanent address, moving from Sudan to Sri Lanka to Sierra Leone. In my head, telephone numbers, street names, roads and zip codes blended into a mishmash of data.
There I was: sitting on my bed playing FIFA 2002, completely oblivious to the fact that the course of my life was about to change. Suddenly, I heard my door creak open. It was my father.
“I was offered a job in Sudan,” he said.
“What is that?” I replied, bewildered.
“It’s a country,” he told me. “We will be moving there soon.”
Everything went by very fast the next few months, and, soon, I found myself in a completely different world. The people were different; the food was different and even the trees were different!
I still remember. The house was painted a warm shade of yellow. Everything felt welcoming — from the gleaming wooden floors covered in throw rugs, to the pale blue curtains, to the windows that revealed a garden. Neem leaves had started to fall, covering the pathway in a green carpet that softly crunched underfoot. Looking back at what was my first memory of Sudan, I now realize that this marked the beginning of a story, one that has shaped me into who I am today.
Camel-riding in the Sahara Desert, hiking in the tropical jungles of Sri Lanka, sunbathing on the beaches of Sierra Leone — all became familiar experiences in the course of my travels. I have met people of more than a hundred nationalities and experienced things that I never would have. My world of travelling has allowed me to leave my comfort zone. I am more willing to take risks that I would have become in other, less nomadic conditions. Facing countless challenges, such as not being able to speak English at first, has allowed me to overcome fear and prejudice. By being exposed to so many cultures and customs, I have developed a respect for an entire spectrum of beliefs and lifestyles. To sum up, I have become open minded, less insular: qualities I am proud to possess.
Each of us has a story that shapes our identity. And I am eternally grateful for mine, for it has inspired me to delve into my dreams and aspirations. Because of this exposure, I have been able to look at my world through a different lens and redefine myself and my perspective with each new location I call “home.” Experiencing so many cultures and so many environments has made me open-minded, and has inspired me to travel the world later in life, fully on my own. I want to finish what my father started.